Perhaps no one benefits more from all that parks and recreation has to offer than children. Local park and recreation agencies provide safe places where kids can go when they are not in school, whether before or after class or during the long months of summer. Out-of-school (OST) programs are not only places for children to go while their parents or guardians earn a living, these programs also deliver learning and personal enrichment opportunities that open up greater possibilities for today’s youth. These programs also serve as critical refuges for youth living in households with substance-use issues or struggling with financial stresses.

Even with these programs’ great success, OST could have an even greater impact. With access to greater funding and resources, park and recreation agencies have the opportunity to introduce more children to nature, science, technology and better nutrition. Further, these programs could broaden their impact with additional tutoring, mentoring and enrichment opportunities that improve the mental, physical and emotional health of youngsters.

NRPA’s Out-of-School Time Report, based on the responses from a July 2018 survey of 334 park and recreation agencies, celebrates how OST programs are making a real difference in the lives of their communities’ youth. The study also highlights on what more can be done and the obstacles that must be overcome to fully deliver on these programs.

Read the Report

Key Study Findings

  • Top benefits of OST programs include offering children safe places to play outside of school hours, free/affordable facilities for engaging in health and wellness activities, social opportunities and chances to connect youth to peers.

  • Park and recreation agencies tailor OST program offerings to serve specific populations and audiences, including by age, gender, race/ethnicity and at-risk youth.

  • More than half of park and recreation agencies offer OST STEM activities that focus on the environment, technology and project-based learning.

  • Fifty-seven percent of park and recreation professionals report that there are children participating in their out-of-school time programs that live in households facing significant financial challenges.

  • One in six park and recreation professionals reports having OST youth participants who come to their programs hungry.


Out-of-School Time Infographic

Interactive Charts

Out-of-School Time Report - 2016

Out-of-school time (OST) programs are critical providers of child care — affording parents and caregivers the opportunity to earn a living. These programs provide education about nature and nutrition, tutoring, mentoring and enrichment opportunities that improve the mental, physical and emotional health of youth. More so, OST programs fill a critical need by providing healthy meals to children during out-of school times. There remains, however, many opportunities for greater success by serving more children and expanding program offerings. Based on survey results from 396 park and recreation professionals, this study explores the scope and missions of out-of-school time programs, along with their greatest challenges and successes.


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